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About this poet

Born in Venice Beach, California, Elana Bell received a bachelor of arts from Sarah Lawrence College in 1999. She returned to Sarah Lawrence for graduate study and received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2008.

Her manuscript, Eyes, Stones, was selected by Fanny Howe as the winner of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award, and will be published by Louisiana State University Press in 2012.

She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, and the Drisha Institute.

Bell has conducted poetry workshops for educators, women in prison, teenagers across the country and abroad, as well as for the Arab Jewish Peace Organization.

She currently serves as the writer-in-residence for the Bronx Academy of Letters and resides in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, writer Jai Chakrabarti.

Flags

Elana Bell
                                We have put up many flags,
                                they have put up many flags.
                                To make us think that they are happy.
                                To make them think that we are happy.
                                                                     —Yehuda Amichai

Everywhere, in the fertile soil of this land, 
we've planted flags. Flags sprout like the hair
from an old man's nostrils. Blue and white 
or red, black, green and white, they shroud 
windows, standing in for a family 
you can't see: a flag instead of the mother 
who hums and spices the lentils, a flag 
for father, who runs the blade against his cheek
each morning with the rooster's kukuku. 
Later, in the dark, he holds his wife 
while the children sleep wrapped in flags. 
Flags grow in the garden, flags from the beaks
of muted birds. Shredded flags drape phone wires, 
flags hang from the pines like dead hands—

Copyright © 2011 by Elana Bell. Used by permission of the author.

Copyright © 2011 by Elana Bell. Used by permission of the author.

Elana Bell

Elana Bell

The grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Elana Bell was selected by Fanny Howe to receive the 2011 Walt Whitman Award for her manuscript Eyes, Stones

by this poet

poem
We ate labneh and bread in your tents


When we had no water
          we drew it from your well

	
Your camels carried the sand to build our houses
          you built them—your hands—


Fig-tree          prickly-pear          human-flood


You were the wasteland we made bloom
poem

To hold the bird and not to crush her, that is the secret. Sand turned too quickly to cement and who cares if the builders lose their arms? The musk of smoldered rats on sticks that trailed their tails through tunnels underground. Trickster of light, I walk your cobbled alleys all night long and drink your salt.

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